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"Troop Quality in 1805" Topic

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696 hits since 3 Dec 2018
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Whirlwind04 Dec 2018 12:00 a.m. PST

A recent refight link got me wondering about troop quality in the 1805 campaign. In your various opinions:

What do you think the differences in troop qulaity between the French, the Austrians and the Russians should be (if any at all)?

In the areas where you do think there is a difference, how big should that difference be?

At which levels (individual / peloton / battalion / brigade / operational / strategic etc.) do you think the advantages should apply?

Are there any objective grounds – not based on the subjective opinion of participants – (e.g. length and rigour of training / effective recruitment policies etc.) for justifying differences?

marshalGreg04 Dec 2018 6:12 a.m. PST

There was other dynamitcs in play at this time than just troop quality or should be rolled into that factor, depending the level of game play…skirmish vs tactical vs grand tactical.
They were:
large French battalions vs smaller Austrian and Russian.
Effective skirmish resource in the French units ( line units with intergral skirmish resources [ many were from the Revolution period and thus experienced in skirmish warfare- even though the voltigier company was yet to being designated) vs poor in the Austrian and Russian Line units. Therefore the Russian and Austrian relied on their designated light troops who were not enough and where not in numbers where needed. French probably had the better hand in musketry with weapon, powder and fire discipline.
French were very motivated in 1805 and it was looked upon as a career for the officer staff- thus on average better than their counterparts ( promotion vs commissions/birth rights).

21eRegt04 Dec 2018 6:33 a.m. PST

Also the Austrians had just undergone a reorganization including the basic battalion element that had to have an effect on efficiency. In my view I've always used the Austrians as the benchmark from which I compare other armies, being one of the most determined opponents to France.

von Winterfeldt04 Dec 2018 6:58 a.m. PST

the Austrians underwent a lot of re organisations – change of commanders and so on, whilte 50 % of the Grandè Armée were veterans of previous war and the whole army had a re-training at the camps at the Channel.

In my view the Austrian Army of 1805 was the worst Austrian Army in the whole wars from 1792 to 1815.

The Russians I would regard as solid as ever.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP04 Dec 2018 8:06 a.m. PST

Yeah, even more so than other campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars, not only is Napoleon strategically miles ahead of his opponents, but French officers at corps, division and brigade level are faster and more determined than their opponents--which is why the campaign generates so few decent wargaming battles. I don't know that a French battalion or squadron was that much better than their Austrian counterparts, but it was never going to come down to that.

David Brown04 Dec 2018 8:19 a.m. PST

A significant factor was that the Grande Armee had been in training under the same officers and same staff for some time and most importantly had trained at all levels from battalion to regiment to brigade and so on.

As a result the French knew each other well, knew what to do and how to operate in all tactical situations.

The Allies however, often had disparate formations commanded by unfamiliar officers with unknown or new staff, thus performed at a marked disadvantage.

As the wars progressed this French cohesion and experience declined and post 1812 was pretty much gone.


Trajanus04 Dec 2018 9:39 a.m. PST

Not to mention that on the Allied side the Austrians were doing the General Staff work for everybody, which must have been fun for the Russians.

Come to think of it, did a lot of Russian Generals speak German, or did everyone use French?

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2018 5:24 a.m. PST

At Austerlitz the Russians were far from 'solid.' They were not the best troops in Europe during the period.

'Native' Russians also had an innate prejudice against foreign officers, even those whose families, such as Barclay de Tolly, who had been in Russia for generations. Barclay was arguably the best Russian commander of the period, but he was plotted against even by members of his own staff because of his ethnic heritage.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2018 6:36 a.m. PST

The Grande Armee of 1805 was arguably the best Napoleon ever led. They had gone through almost three years of intensive training in the Channel camps with the emphasis being of infantry/artillery cooperation on the battlefield. None of the armies they faced in 1805 had this great advantage.

Further, the French military reform period from 1763-1789 had initiated and/or developed staff organization and functioning, the development of the division as a tactical organization, the excellent artillery reforms that remade the French artillery arm and finally developed field artillery as distinct to siege artillery.

The field maneuvers in Normandy in the 1770s developed the tactics that would be employed beginning in the 1790s during the French Revolutionary Wars. Some of the results of the experimentation were the excellent expeditionary force under Rochambeau that was sent to assist the Americans in 1780, including the new artillery pieces of the Gribeauval System.

The corps system was first employed in the Marengo campaign of 1800 and was then fully integrated into the Grande Armee. The French staff system was superior to anything the allies employed as well as the system of divisions that made up the individual corps.

The French corps d'armee was essentially a corps headquarters for command and control with corps troops assigned to it (engineers, gendarmes, and support troops). This could control from two to five infantry divisions and would also have either a brigade or division of light cavalry assigned to it.

If the situation demanded or an opportunity presented itself divisions of either infantry or cavalry could be attached or detached between corps and other corps could be temporarily organized as in 1805, 1807, and 1809 with little or no loss of efficiency.

The flexibility of the corps d'armee system enabled command and control to be decentralized and the corps themselves were organized both to the merits and capabilities of the individual corps commanders and to confuse enemy intelligence.

Horse artillery made its debut in the French service in 1792 and Napoleon introduced a militarized artillery train in 1800.

Napoleon also organized the Cavalry Reserve which was a corps organization of cavalry and supporting artillery and other corps units commanded by the army cavalry commander.

Each corps had both an engineer and artillery commander, the latter usually being an artillery general officer.

There was also an army artillery reserve under the command of the army artillery chief, a senior artillery officer.

No other army of the period was organized from 1805 in such a manner, though some armies adopted the corps system later in the wars.

Neither the Austrians nor the Russians were trained to this standard and their organizations above the regiment were not permanent organizations and the units were formed into ad hoc higher-level organizations at the beginning of a campaign from units that had not trained together to the same standard.

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